From Retail to Deloitte: Ascending to Audit Associate

Networking and building connections led to my Big 4 job offer

After earning her undergraduate degree in business administration at St. Mary's College of California, Catherine Jaber jumped into the fashion industry, working in several departments as an omni-inventory planner at Gap's Banana Republic. After four years of blending her passion for numbers and women's style, Jaber looked to start a new chapter.

Motivated by the instability of retail, she joined the UC Davis Master of Professional Accountancy program and already has landed a role as an audit associate at Deloitte beginning in the fall. As she prepares for the CPA exam, Jaber looks forward to joining the Big Four firm and starting her new accounting career.

We caught up with Jaber in between classes and studying for the CPA exam to ask her about her journey and future.

Tell us a little bit about your prior role as an omni-inventory planner at Banana Republic.

My role at Banana Republic gave me the opportunity to combine two of my interests—numbers and fashion. In my role, I oversaw inventory levels throughout the entire product lifecycle.  

Along with determining how many units we should buy, I was also in charge of maintaining financial plans at the department and product levels, ensuring we hit our forecast.

What factors made you decide to pursue an MPAc at UC Davis? Could you elaborate on a specific instance during your career that finalized your decision?

I have always had a strong interest in numbers, and my undergraduate degree was in finance. While I really loved my job at Banana Republic, the instability of the retail industry made me realize that it was time for a change.  

After surviving three rounds of layoffs, I knew that I needed to find something that enabled me to continue working within my interests and also had a bit more stability. I ended up applying to several programs and ultimately decided that UC Davis was the best fit for me.

How are you building your network at UC Davis and beyond?

I have loved the opportunity to get to know my accounting classmates and some MBA students at the Graduate School of Management. The recruiting process was very helpful in building my professional network. The Meet the Firms event was a great opportunity to network with diverse accounting professionals, several of whom I stay in touch.

What advice would you give to those considering a graduate accounting degree?

Getting any master’s degree, let alone accounting, is difficult to do in nine months. The biggest piece of advice that I can offer is to stay on top of your coursework and to build connections with your peers.   

It is important to consistently work on your homework and study throughout the week so you don’t become overwhelmed. Study groups are really useful to ask questions outside of class.

You already have accepted an offer while only in your first quarter at UC Davis. Can you share more about the role that you accepted?

I am thrilled to have committed to working for Deloitte as an audit associate. I knew going in that I wanted to join a Big 4 firm, and I was so fortunate to receive offers from all of them.   

What ultimately helped make my decision was the people that I connected with during the pre-and post-interview process. Deloitte really invests in the training of their new hires and tries to put them on projects that match their interests.   

Maybe I will end up auditing a retail company next year! 

With you about to jumpstart your accounting career after graduation, what are you most looking forward to as you take this next step?

Passing the CPA exam! I am super fortunate that Deloitte gives the option of multiple start dates so that I can study and take a few sections of the exam before starting. Believe it or not, I am also excited to have my first busy season and see where my career in audit takes me.